The Unexpected Trip with Mom

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So here’s the thing: the purpose of the 2-day trip in Osaka is to attend the Hi-touch and Fanmeet alone, all by myself. But at the (not so) last minute, my mother tagged along. The day before the trip, I constantly asked her if she’s on board with my plan. I hoped she didn’t regret her decision.

Bringing my mom who doesn’t have the slightest idea what I’m about to turn up at would be a hassle on her side. While I am enjoying myself with my beloved boy group, she’ll be bored waiting for me. Besides, I didn’t want to bother anyone to chaperone me in this journey because I figured solo backpacking is full of adventures and misfortunes -which makes the travel fulfilling. After confirming my booking in the hotel, I was surprised when my mom decided to come with me. I haven’t actually planned for an itinerary because I’m sure going to the event will take up most of my time.

Fortunately, on the first day, as the hi-touch ended, my mom and I had a great time walking around the streets of Dotonbori after the tedious walkathon earlier that morning as we got lost tracking down the apartment we’re staying at. I booked the place because the host is a Filipina. Thank goodness the host allowed us to drop our baggage 6 hours earlier the check-in time (Salamat ate!). Although the accommodation price is quite high, having someone who we can contact comfortably regarding the lodging is satisfactory.

Upon arriving at the Ebisubashi, we took a handful of photos of the famous Glico man board, the iconic moving crab at Kani Douraku and the remarkable Pablo Cheesecake specialty shop:

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On the second day, we carried our luggage with us as we traveled from the apartment to Grand Cube – where the fan meeting will be held by the same boy band I hi-touched with on the previous day. I was surprised that there was already a lengthy queue outside the venue despite the harsh cold weather. Since there is already a seating plan indicated on the ticket I didn’t mind resting somewhere warm and comfortable. We decided to grab some breakfast on the second floor which has a cafe on it. After waiting some time I went down to fall in line. The queue slowly moved from the entrance up to the fifth floor. Upon arriving at the hall, there was a crowd of fans going to and fro buying official merchandise, taking photos of the standees and writing questions for the boys. I squeezed my way into the crowd and proceeded directly to the auditorium after taking pictures of the standees (obligatory photo souvenirs because they’re too cute!)

During the fan meeting, the band’s fanservice and witty spiels gave us some laughs and butterflies. Their performance got us fired up until the end as we danced along their songs. It was my first time meeting the band and I’m glad attended the 2-day event.The event was overall great. Every single penny is worth it.

Budget Travels: Tokyo

Want to make the best of your trip to Tokyo? This post might help you spend less than what you expect. While Tokyo was once dubbed as one of the top cities with a high cost of living, we can never deny that traveling there may exhaust our budget and come home with an empty pocket.

Here are the things to consider for a perfect budget travel:

Transportation

1. Traveling within Japan 

  • Local Bus : Japan Bus Line | Willer Express
    • If you are away from the airport access, traveling through the local bus is the best choice. The downside of this option is you have to sit for a long period of time (to prevent this always get out of the bus on every stops).
  • Shinkansen: Japanican
    • Shinkansen ticket prices are known to be expensive as it obviously gets you faster to your destination, but Japanican’s website displays discounts for a trip with the shinkansen and hotel combined.
  • Plane: Jetstar
    • Jetstar has always been our choice when going to Kyushu. It is one of the airlines with the cheapest airfare within Japan destinations.

2. Traveling from another country

  • Cheap Flights / Promo Seats
    • Your local airlines may offer flight promos, so be sure to subscribe to them for promo alerts or regularly check their website for discounts!
  • JR Pass
    • After arriving in Japan, the JR Pass offers discounted tickets or unlimited rides for foreigners passport holders and/or temporary visitors.

Train Passes

Getting train passes for your travel will save you from the hassle of buying tickets in the station’s ticket machine. Just keep in mind not to travel during rush hours because you will be completely stuck inside the train.


Hotel Accommodations

1. Booking.com

  • Recommending this to you because I have already booked three times here and everything went smoothly. Just remember to print the pdf after checking your reservation details as it will serve as your entry ticket to the hotel.

2. Airbnb

  • I booked here once when my mom and I traveled to Osaka. It was a fair agreement as I was able to ask the host if we could check-in for as early as 10am. She is cool about it because she is a fellow Filipino. Before deciding to book, look for reviews, the total cost of your stay, and contact the host to make sure your stay will be as comfortable as you expect it to be. (Get $31 to travel on Airbnb!)

3. Couchsurfing

  • What I read about Couchsurfing is it is completely free, but of course you need to return the favor of letting you stay in their place. If you’re willing to meet nomadic people like you then give Couchsurfing a try! (Make sure to do safety measurements first before contacting the host, although the stay it’s free, it can never guarantee your safety.)

Things to ask when booking a hotel:

  • Is it near the train stations?
    • Staying near the Yamanote loop line is probably the most convenient because the line stops at some of the most famous spots in Tokyo – Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, etc. Also, if you miss your station, you can just continue riding on the loop until you arrive again at your destination! (It’s time-consuming though).
  • Are there convenient stores/ restaurants around or inside the hotel?
    • Some hotels will have restaurants inside, it may be a little bit pricey so you can resort to convenience stores or cheap dining around.
  • Is it quiet during nighttime?
    • If you want a livelier atmosphere at night, stay around Shinjuku. Otherwise, it is best to stay in Ueno for a calm, relaxing nightlife.
  • Is it safe?
    • Make sure to stay away from suspicious areas. Reading the hotels reviews will inform you about the safety of the area.
  • Can the host/ staff understand English?
    • Considering that you will stay in Tokyo, most hotel staff may be able to communicate with you in simple English.

Food

The best experience in traveling is when you taste the local specialty foods. You can ask the hotel staff where the famous local restaurants are.


My Travel Expense

When I traveled to Tokyo, I stayed in Oak Hotel which is located in Ueno. The hotel is well-situated because it is very close to the convenience stores, a few restaurants can be reached within short distance. Ueno is a complete opposite of Asakusa even though the two cities are adjacent. The area is very peaceful at night, businessmen walk their way towards home, a few tourists would commute on their way back to their hotels.


Here’s my estimated breakdown for 2-days & 1-night stay:

Night Bus ¥8,100
Hotel ¥9,960
Breakfast ¥920
Lunch ¥1400
Dinner(Onigiri + drinks) ¥500
Train from Shinjuku to Ueno(and vice versa) ¥400
Train from Ueno to Asakusa(and vice versa) ¥350

Total

¥21,630

The girl who leapt through time

 

What’s not to miss during the trip to Takayama is the open-air museum located west of the train station, Hida Folk Village (Hida no sato). Because of the vast space of this exhibit, it is quite isolated from the other sightseeing places around Takayama. Albeit being secluded from the main attractions in Takayama, Hida No Sato boasts the replicas of the village head’s house, huts, storehouses and farmhouses during the Edo Period.

The entire village is open for exploration and over 30 well-preserved cultural structures are scattered around the village.

The main houses across the Goami Pond (Goami-ike) near the entrance.

Koi Fishes and Ducks in the Goami Pond (You can feed them for 50 yen!)

Aside from the picturesque landscape the village offers, visitors can try some of the classic Japanese outdoor games (I wasn’t able to try all of those though because I was already distracted with my original plan: take a lot of instagram-worthy photos! -I semi-failed with this though ><)

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Traditional water gun target
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Playing with giant stilts. Being able to walk with these is not an easy task ><;

The gassho-zukuri houses (hands joined in prayer) unique with its thatched and steep roof.

Another type of house during the Edo Period uses a Kurebuki roof which, just like the thatched roof, can sustain the heavy amount of snowfall.

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Oh look! A wishing bell!

Sitting next to Hozumi’s house, the sight of this huge bell intrigued me of its purpose. The bell was supposed to grant wishes to anyone who followed the instructions written in front of the wooden fence: First is to make a bow, then Strike the bell once and finally make a wish during the echo. Despite my exposure to the rituals in the temple/shrines where bells are also rung, this significant artifact definitely piqued my interest as it echoed throughout the village.

Moving further inside the village, we found a wood crafting house. Aside from the woodcrafting house, the neighbor houses also have its own crafting specialty, too bad we aren’t able to try because nobody was tending the area. Nevertheless the woodcrafter’s sole existence in the world of arts and crafts satisfied us.

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Neko-chan souvenir!

The woodcrafter demonstrated his skills when we arrived in his niche. Inisde his abode are several masks made from wood, keychains, home decor, etc. Glad I was able to buy the cute little cat as a way to support the artisan.

Within the Comfort Zone

Ueno has become my travel getaway during my short stays in Tokyo this year.  The night life in Ueno is quiet and relaxing compared to its neighboring districts – Asakusa and Akihabara, where tourists flock to see the Senso-ji Temple and the Anime haven.

While Asakusa and Akihabara is famous for their own charms, Ueno exhibits numerous temples, shrines, museums and zoo. The famous Ueno Park,  a spacious public park is just a few meters away from the Ueno Station.

Hydrangeas bloom during summer in Japan, it can be commonly seen in parks and in the temple gardens. If the spring season has the cherry blossom tree, hydrangeas captivates the locals and tourists alike during summer.

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Tokyo National Museum

After a few minutes of walk through the south of the park, I came across the Tokyo National Museum, some tourists are taking a tour with their guide even in this kind of weather.

The drizzle gave me a hard time to take photos of the Museum, with an umbrella, a camera and a bottle of cider I must say that the struggle is real. I gave up taking another shot after my umbrella failed to resist the gust of the wind and I wasn’t able to control my grasp anymore.

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Gate towards Kaneiji Temple

After capturing this photo of the gate leading to the Kaneiji Temple, I quickly walked away when I heard someone said “dare desu ka?” or something along the line after the shutter of my camera clicked. I thought the caretakers near the gate were bothered by the sound.

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Ema : Wooden Wishing Plaques
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Lions Club Totem Pole
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Towards Toshogu Shrine

If ever you are planning on visiting Ueno Park, I’d recommend you wearing your most comfy shoes because walking around the park requires a great amount of vitality. With all the attractions the park can offer to you, I bet spending time with every spot will consume your energy.

As for me, I hadn’t have enough rest from the hotel after visiting Asakusa and my body is slowly giving up on me and because I had the nerve to continue my adventure to Akihabara (I walked all the way to Akiba because I’m afraid I’d get lost riding trains), I almost didn’t want to come back to the hotel thinking about the distance between Akiba and Ueno (I promise I’ll ride the train next time!).

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Ameyoko

Ameya yokocho is a shopping street filled with various items – foods, clothing, footwear, gadgets. Imported products can also be bought here, you just have to ask the locals about the exact location because the stalls are underground. Yay for the tax-free shops!

Tip: Always bring your passport (tourist passport, that is) for every time you purchase in tax-free shops, you will be exempted from paying the tax.

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Tokyo University (Bunkyo-ku)

During my first visit in Ueno, I didn’t realize that there is a Tokyo University nearby, I’m glad I was able to visit Japan’s most prestigious university on my third visit in Tokyo with my friend!

After walking for about 30 mins from the Ueno Station ( I didn’t realize it was so far that me and my friend almost dragged our feet just to reach this famous Todai) we arrived in one of the branches of Tokyo University located in Bunkyo-ku, just a few meters away from the station.

We would not be able to arrive in Tokyo University map without the internet + gps locator app! However the scorching heat of the sun didn’t meet our travel expectations, if only we can grab a taxi to reach our destination (we’re very frugal with spending our money orz). It took us about 3-4 stops in convenience stores before arriving here. But it’s all worth it!

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The Experimental Tank
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General Library

I have to say that I felt safe and comfortable with my travels while in Tokyo, considering that I  walk alone at night when I get back to the hotel. Whenever I go to Tokyo, Ueno will be the first place that I consider staying in. Ueno will always have a special place in my heart.

Traveling Solo Doesn’t Always Mean You Are Alone

Thanks to my father’s work, the Tokyo trip has become possible! Who says traveling alone isn’t fun? I get to spend my own time doing whatever I want. The pressure of complying a companion’s needs during the travel is gone. Yay!

The amount of endurance sitting in the bus for seven straight hours is almost unbearable due to the fact that I am not a fan of sleeping while in transit. I just happen to have the habit of looking outside the window, appreciating the beauty of Japan.

While Japan is not a foreign land anymore as I was able to visit the country for several short times, it still took a lot of courage to take a step outside alone because of the intimidating structures surrounding the hotel I stayed in (the difference between the urban and rural life is greatly evident as I arrived in Tokyo). It is my first time unaccompanied in Japan and with the capacity of my Japanese vocabulary and the complexity of the train lines, it is impossible to travel without feeling uneasy.

After a lot of contemplation and planning for my first destination, I headed to Asakusa. Famous for its Buddhist Temple as one of its main attraction, Asakusa boasts a myriad of sightseeing spots earning a crowd of tourists everywhere.

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Tokyo Skytree and Asahi Brewery Building across the Azumabashi Bridge

On this gloomy weather, it is a little disappointing to see the Skytree covered with clouds, but it didn’t stop the flock of tourists from taking selfies with the landmarks.

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Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate)

The Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate leading the path to Nakamise-dori and Senso-ji Temple.

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Nakamise Dori around 7 in the morning
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At 5pm the street is already bustled with people!

The Nakamise Shopping street offers a wide range of souvenirs from food delicacies to the traditional Japanese garments. I didn’t buy anything and now I’m regretting it *cries*. If you happen to pass by here, take a look at every shop, taste all the foods and make sure to not have second thoughts of buying what you want!

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Tourists donning a yukata as they wander around Asakusa

Don’t miss the yukata/kimono experience when you visit asakusa!  You can find some cheap rental shops near the temple. While you walk around wearing the traditional Japanese clothes, some tourists might ask for a picture with you!

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Tourists huddle around the large cauldron

Before proceeding to the Senso-ji Temple, a huge earthenware sits in the middle of the path. The smoke emitting from the incense burner is believed for purifying one’s body. It is a must try when visiting the Senso-ji temple.

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Kannodo Main Hall, Senso-ji Temple

Senso-ji Temple – Tokyo’s oldest temple. Wasn’t able to see the pagoda though because it is under maintenance during my visit.

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Omikuji (Paper Fortune)

Couldn’t read kanji and missed my chance to draw a paper fortune ><.

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Bus vs Car vs Rickshaw

Another thing not to miss out in Asakusa – the Pulled Rickshaw!

This traditional transportation attracts a lot of tourists, it can be found in Kyoto and Tokyo. Most rickshaw pullers are entertainers, actors, athletes and considered pulling rickshaws as their side jobs, some are part-timer students and some have interest in cultural exchanges which explains why they are very friendly and can speak a handful of English. The puller will tour the passengers on their chosen route (price varies depending on the course).

After visiting Asakusa, I walked all the way back to the hotel for some rest and resumed my venture towards Ueno.